A number of objections have come up to my using of the terms joy and happiness and my saying that we should seek our happiness in God. I have been wrestling with these, and if they cannot answer the objections, then I want to scrap them and to follow God in truth.

Objection #1: You are confounding joy and happiness… You see in the Psalms, when David is utterly in the pits, he has a hope that God will deliver him.
Answer: I would return first that I think this objector is confounding joy and hope. Joy first of all, is defined as great happiness or something that makes someone rejoice. Hope on the other hand is defined as wanting or expecting something to happen.
Hope is akin to a confidence or a trust in somebody or something. We see David describe his assurance and his trust in God, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my HOPE is in him” (Psalm 62:5 ESV).
Secondly, we see in the Psalms that when David is in the pits, he pleads for joy. After taking another man’s wife, and then sending him off to be murdered, David is stricken by godly sorrow. David pleads with God, “Let me hear JOY and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice…Restore to me the JOY of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:8,11 ESV).
Another place I find even more compelling in how David speaks directly of God delivering him from the pit. “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit” (Psalm 30:3). Then he speaks of a pit-like experience two verses later, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but JOY comes with the morning” (vs 5). What is implied here is that joy is as much a change in countenance and mood from weeping as the light of a new day is from the blackness of the prior night. David does not describe being in joy WHILE he was in the pit, but speaks gladly of the God who delivered him from the pit. He tells how God turned his morning into dancing, and loosed his sackcloth (a garment worn for fasting, grief, penitence and extreme desperation) and clothed him with gladness (Psalm 30:11).

Objection #2: For one, happiness is circumstantial, while joy is not. When things are good, you may be happy, but when everything is bad, you may be joyful.
Answer: To answer the second objection, I would state that joy is also circumstantial. What?!!
Yes, read on. Why do the early Christians (Hebrews 11) REJOICE at the plundering of their property? For the very reason that God is bringing to mind the circumstance that they have better possession in heaven. If this CIRCUMSTANCE, namely that they had a better and abiding possession somewhere else were not there, it would be better for them to, “Eat and drink, for tomorrow [they] die” (I Cor 15:32 ESV). God has stamped them with a joy that can never be taken away. God glorifies his name by bringing praise, rejoicing, etc. to his name during impossible circumstances.
Isaiah foretold good news of great HAPPINESS (Isaiah 52:7 NASB).
Why do the disciples REJOICE (be full of joy) and jump for joy that they were counted worthy to suffer for the gospel? “They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).
Why does Jesus tell his disciples during Luke when they are persecuted to “Rejoice and JUMP for JOY on that day”?
Of course, like the Christian’s happiness, the Christian’s joy is also circumstantial. It is hinged on the presence and abiding love of God. It is hinged on God’s approval and abiding influence in their lives. And if God puts his seal of approval (irrevocable) on a man or woman, then they cannot but have this seal uncovered and stared at in the midst of various trials. Then if the circumstance of God’s seal and Holy Spirit is present, then they may overcome all other circumstances. But this is not in spite of circumstances, but because of one very unique and special one that is greater than all of the others! That seal cannot be washed off or pried off or torn off by anything. Like the King issuing the edict in Esther could not revoke his seal, so God cannot revoke the seal of his Holy Spirit that he places on his people.
What then, brothers, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35)? To paraphrase Paul, I wonder if it would be acceptable to ask, what then brothers can separate us from the Joy of God in Christ Jesus? Can plague, sickness, suffering, sorrow, death, demons, enemies, malicious talk, hatred, family disputes, or anything else? No, because we worship a God whose power and goodness are greater than all of these and shows us that we are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with Good (Romans 12:19-21). And digressing for a moment, I think this could apply to the remaining fruit of the Spirit, “What can separate us from the peace of God… What can separate us from the kindness of God… What can separate us from the patience of God? (Gal 5:22-23)”

Objection #3: The world has happiness, but only Christians have joy. Furthermore, the joy that Christians experience is a choice, NOT an emotion.
Answer: To answer the third objection, I will say that Jesus himself speaks of the world having joy. In his last hours with his disciples, Jesus tells them another parable to illustrate a spiritual truth that will soon be real to them. He uses the story of a woman going into labor, and then proceeds by saying that she will have sorrow knowing her hour has come. So too will the disciples have sorrow. But it does not end there. The woman will have JOY when she finds a baby born into the world. This is not a special joy that will only be for Christian mothers, but for mothers in general. The distinction between this woman’s joy and the disciple’s is that hers is temporal, while theirs will be eternal. The deep seated joy, rooted in the soil of the Holy Spirit, will not be dug up. There are things that God created that are good and cause many to take joy in them (babies, marriages, feasts, graduations, alms to the poor, etc.), but they are derivative and people of the world end up drinking trickles of the run-off instead of from the main basin of the fountain of joy.

And finally, I will come to my point of agreement with my objectors. The object of our happiness and of our joy being in anything less than God alone will be infinitely unsatisfying.

As I have time and understanding, I would like to talk later of some of the objections I have had. For example, if God created us for joy, then how come some of those closest to and most obedient to God cursed the day of their birth (Job and Jeremiah for example) and pleaded to God for death?
Stay tuned!

Advertisements